Thursday, April 07, 2005

Gomery Inquiry Lid Blown Off

You know that thing we were all talking about but weren't supposed to talk about? Justice Gomery says it's OK to talk about it now.

Here's what we can talk about:

MONTREAL -- Top federal Liberal officials forced an ad executive to secretly divert more than $1 million to the party's Quebec wing in exchange for sponsorship contracts, the executive told the Gomery inquiry in politically explosive testimony that had been kept under wraps by a publication ban that was finally lifted Thursday.

Brault's Groupaction firm also defrayed party staffing costs through Liberal employees who were planted in his firm at the urging of party brass.

The scheme went on for nine years and involved at least $1.1 million involving top officials in the office of former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano.

If true, the scam would be unprecedented in modern federal politics because tax dollars were funnelled from public coffers to the Liberal party while middlemen took huge commissions for little or no work.

Yeah, but we knew that already (unofficially, anyway), you might be saying.

There's more:

Brault last week portrayed Groupaction as a virtual financial arm of the Liberal party's Quebec wing - a wing that was $3.8-million in debt by late 2003.

''We were very heavily solicited,'' Brault recalled last Friday under questioning from lead inquiry counsel Bernard Roy.

''We didn't ask questions and we understood that all contributions were going to be taken into consideration and that we would be compensated (for it) one way or another.''

That first line explains why Paul Martin called in the RCMP and is suing Brault for $40 million: somebody in the Quebec wing swindled the party out of all that money they worked so hard to steal. If we can believe the party's financial statements. Since the whole racket was illegal to start, there was no fraud, since an illegal contract can't be enforced.

But Brault has shown an equal amount of chutzpah by claiming that he was the victim of a shakedown by the Quebec wing:

Brault provided several examples of a wide-ranging conspiracy to funnel cash to what Liberal brass called ''the cause'' which he understood was that of the Liberal party.

''I was told the party counted a lot on me and my financial aid,'' Brault recalled.

Brault claimed specific requests for money were usually made by one of three men:

_ Jacques Corriveau, whose Pluri Design graphic firm received $494,000 from Groupaction.

_ Benoit Corbeil, president of the Liberal party's Quebec wing in the 1990s.

_ And Alain Renaud, a Liberal fundraiser who worked at Groupaction for several years, earning more than $1.1 million.

Throughout his testimony, Brault portrayed himself as an unwitting Liberal donor who only forked over the cash to keep federal contracts that netted his firm $60 million, including $17 million in commissions and other fees.

He soon found himself facing a barrage of requests to pay party bills, telephone bills and web design costs - requests he said he usually refused.

What brass! Brault was quite happy to be shaken down as long as the contracts came in. He knows the price of doing political business in Quebec--everyone has, since the days of Duplessis.

Ah, damn it. I'm too pissed off to post anymore on this.

No comments: